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UN confirms 11 staff detained by Houthis in Yemen

09-06-2024

UNITED NATIONS: Yemen’s Houthi group is detaining at least 11 United Nations personnel, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric has said, calling for the staff’s unconditional release.

Dujarric said on Friday the UN was seeking clarification from the Houthis about why the Yemeni employees were detained. The two women and nine men work for five different UN agencies and the UN envoy for Yemen.

“We’re pursuing all available channels to secure the safe and unconditional release of all of them as rapidly as possible,” said Dujarric, adding that the UN also wanted access to the staff.

In a series of raids, armed Houthi intelligence officers also detained three employees of the US-funded pro-democracy group National Democratic Institute (NDI) and three employees of a local human rights group, three officials of Yemen’s internationally recognized government told Reuters on Friday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) decried the detentions, saying that the Yemeni group’s refusal to disclose the location of the detained individuals “can amount to enforced disappearance” under international law.

“The Houthis should immediately release any UN employees and workers for other independent groups they have detained because of their human rights and humanitarian work and stop arbitrarily detaining and forcibly disappearing people,” Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at HRW said in a statement.

“Such detentions not only attack the rights of these individuals but also undermine essential humanitarian and human rights work in Yemen at a time when the majority of Yemenis do not have adequate access to basic necessities like food and water.”

The reason behind the detentions remains unclear but the apparent crackdown comes at a time of increased tensions and questions over the sustainability of the relative calm between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government.

Last month, the government demanded all banks move their headquarters to its seat in the southern city of Aden, a move that could put further economic pressure on Houthi-controlled areas. The Houthis control the capital Sanaa and present themselves as the legitimate authorities in the country.

Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that Washington is looking to block major parts of a United Nations peace plan that the warring parties in Yemen adopted in December unless the Houthis cease their attacks on international shipping.

Since November, the Yemeni group has been launching drone and missile strikes targeting ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, a campaign it says is intended to pressure Israel to end its war on Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians.

In a statement on social media platform X, Yemen’s Saudi-backed government’s Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani called the detentions an “unprecedented escalation and a flagrant violation of international laws and conventions”.

Former employees of the United States Embassy in Sanaa, which shuttered in 2015, also have been detained and held by the Houthis.

The United States and its allies are increasingly seeking to block funds from reaching Yemen’s Houthi group, a push that could jeopardize United Nations-led efforts to end the civil war in the country, Bloomberg News has reported.

According to the report published on Thursday, Washington is looking to block major parts of a UN peace plan that the warring parties in Yemen adopted in December unless the Houthis cease their attacks on international shipping lanes.

That includes $1.5bn to be paid by Saudi Arabia to civil servants in Houthi-controlled areas, as per the UN roadmap, Bloomberg reported, citing an unidentified source. (Int’l News Desk)

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